As has been widely reported, the Washington Post Company is looking to sell Newsweek, which is reported to be losing as much as $70 million this year. Bids were due at the beginning of July, but a decision is still pending.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that choosing a buyer is somewhat complicated by an apparent desire to sell the magazine but keep it essentially intact. In a cogent critique, Jason Fell of Folio: makes the case that this is exactly the wrong thing to do.
Publishing brands seem to have a blind spot when it comes to weak performance. People are demonstrably willing to pay for content: check out The Economist, Harvard Business Review or People, as examples.
If a target audience is not willing to pay for your content, it’s not an environmental problem. It’s probably the content.
And if a magazine like The Week is making money with a few dozen staff, it’s more than reasonable to ask if Newsweek needs to have 325 people on board what is sadly a sinking ship.
I’m not privy to the evaluation going on at the Washington Post Company, but it seems from this overlook that both the seller and the bidders are trying to figure out a way to tweak the existing model, at a time when the existing models may no longer have relevance. A publication bleeding more than $1 million a week cries out for reinvention.
Edited later on August 2 to add: No doubt feeling significant pressure from this blog post, the Washington Post Company agreed to sell Newsweek to Sidney Harman.